Since its introduction onto this continent in the early 1800′s, the use of a mixture of half silver and half mercury as dental “Amalgam” to fill teeth has created controversy. To this day the arguments continue. Much scientific research has been done, but the divisions seem to be so strong that those in favor of its use rationalize away the condemning research. Those against its use claim that politics and personal interest motivate amalgam’s proponents.
The Facts on Mercury Fillings – As I See Them!
Mercury is a known poison. It is, in fact, one of – if not the – most toxic of all the elements known! It is fact that mercury is fully one-half of the mass of the filling you see when you look at any “silver” filling. It is fact that mercury vaporizes in the mouth and that the vapor is inhaled and also directly absorbed into the body. It is fact that mercury travels to all body tissues and concentrates in tissues where it can do damage in several known ways. I have a collection of reprints of research articles along with the literature from the Public Health Service and other material on the subject if you are interested in a lot of reading on the subject.
The question is not whether the above facts are true, but whether enough of it occurs to be significant. Organized dentistry in the USA has taken the position that amalgam use is perfectly safe. Those against its use have found compelling relationships to many serious illnesses ranging from depression to cancer, and from kidney disease to Alzheimer’s. How can it be thought to cause so wide a range of problems? The suggested answer is that mercury from fillings doesn’t cause a specific disease. It causes poisoning. And depending on which tissues it concentrates in, the symptoms will differ from one person to another. Two of the most common sites of concentration and damage, however, seem to be the the brain and the kidneys.
Sweden and Germany have passed laws to stop or greatly curb the use of mercury-silver fillings. Their nationalized dental plans even help to pay for removal and replacement with alternate non-mercury materials. Canada may soon do the same. The excellent dental school in Zurick has stopped teaching “silver fillings” technique.
Mercury Fillings – The Dilemma
We are faced with compelling data that the mercury in fillings may be a real hazard to our health, but both sides seem so sure about their positions. What should we do? Is there a way to reason through this?
I think there is! First, we are being constantly bombarded with all sorts of chemical and biophysical noxious influences in our food, air, water…everywhere. Our immune systems are being stressed more and more. I believe we are seeing more chemically sensitive people and more illness from “environmental” causes. I think it makes sense to avoid known toxins, especially if there is a reasonable alternative…and there is (read on…).
Regarding mercury (in fillings), a Virginia dentist, stated “Somehow I just don’t feel comfortable using a substance designated by the EPA to be a waste disposal hazard. I can’t [legally] throw it in the trash, bury it in the ground, or put it in a landfill, but they say it’s OK to put it in people’s mouths. That just doesn’t make sense.”
Dental Materials – It’s Your Choice
In the past if you wanted to avoid mercury-silver fillings your only alternative would have been gold. Gold works well – very well, in fact – but it is expensive, technically difficult, and while I think it looks much better than “silver” which corrodes and turns rough and black, it still doesn’t look even close to natural. Additionally, it is not a practical choice for children because of the cost and the lengthy procedure and high degree of cooperation needed to do a good job. Now, however, we have other choices.
Porcelains, glass, and composites are new materials (or old ones used in new ways) that can not just fix a tooth, but truly restore it. That is, restore not only its function, but also its natural appearance and youthful beauty. These restorations are very natural in appearance and feel and wear very much the way natural teeth do. Obviously no material is as nice as naturally beautiful and healthy teeth, but with these materials we can come amazingly close!
Dental Materials and Bonding
In addition to the natural appearance of these new techniques, the way they are attached to the teeth is a whole new revolutionary shift in dentistry. Silver fillings are just stuffed in a hole in the tooth. It is the shape of that hole that prevents the filling from falling out…it is not really stuck to the tooth. That is why so often when the tooth has been hollowed out for a silver filling, creating a shell of enamel around the silver, part of that shell of enamel cracks and falls off. Then you need caps and often root canals, etc.
On the other hand, the new aesthetic materials are strongly bonded to the tooth. That refers to a chemical and micro-mechanical technique that intimately binds or bonds the material to the surrounding tooth structure. The enamel cannot just fall off any more once it has been bonded. The resulting restoration restores not just function and beauty, but returns most of the original strength to the tooth. It has been shown that a large silver filling reduces the strength of a tooth to about 30% of original values! Bonded aesthetic fillings return the tooth to 80% or more!
The Dental Designs Solution
It seems to make sense to conclude that if there is even any possibility that the mercury-containing silver could be a danger to your health, and given the fact that “silver” fillings are ugly and weaken teeth and that there are now techniques available that don’t seem to have any negative health potential, strengthen teeth, and look beautifully natural, that it makes no sense to have any more silver fillings placed in your mouth! Right?
What about silver fillings already in your teeth? Here’s where it gets a little harder… Certainly if you would like your teeth to look much more natural and youthful, the answer is simple. Replace the old silver. What about if your teeth have been breaking and needing rootcanals and caps? Again, other teeth with large silver fillings can be restored to be stronger while regaining their appearance of youth and health.
But old fillings can be replaced because they are defective or the tooth needs something stronger, or you desire something more esthetically natural and healthy looking … Seriously, the rationale for the legal position as stated is that since the official position of organized dentistry in the US is firmly that there are no adverse effects from having mercury-containing fillings, then it is considered malpractice for a dentist to recommend their removal for health reasons. It is “practicing medicine without a medical license”. Personally, I think it will change before long, but that’s how it is now.
Removal of Silver Fillings
If silver fillings are removed, I feel it is important to respect the possibility of it being a dangerous substance (as EPA and OSHA say it is…). There are several things I can do to minimize your (and my) exposure to the mercury which is known to be released during removal of old silver fillings. I can also suggest nutrient supplement regimens which have been designed to scavenge mercury from your body during this period of increased exposure and redistribution.
If you are under the care of a physician concerned about metal toxicity problems I can work in concert with him or her in your interest. If you are receiving alternative health care, I would be most happy to speak with your practitioner about these issues and work in harmony with him or her.
* The preceding information was written by one of Dr. Heppler’s colleagues. Dr. Heppler does share the same views.